The Proper Use of Auto Confirmation Programs
The purpose of this article is to guide you through the “big picture” of implementing a successful recall confirmation system, where at least 75% of your patients are assisting you and utilizing the program. Many offices that have implemented an automated confirmation software program assume they no longer have to confirm their patients’ appointments. This is NOT correct and here are a few reasons why:
1. Not everyone checks their emails daily. I know this is hard to believe, but some patients are not as attached to their devices as many of us are.
Educate your patients on how to use this technology to benefit them. Once you have made the decision to implement a program, it is very important that you “teach” your patients how to use it. You shouldn’t assume that they know how to respond just because they receive a text or email from the office. Many times they will see the subject line, say to themselves, “Yes, I know I have an appointment on Monday” and delete the email without responding. Patients receiving text messages don’t always read the instructions that say to reply with a “C”, so they send back a friendly message telling you that they look forward to their dental appointment. This is nice, but it doesn’t notify the program that the patient has confirmed.
Create an attractive and eye-catching notification for the front desk. Express your excitement in implementing a customer service program that will assist patients in acknowledging their upcoming appointments. You could even have 4x6 cards printed that explain how to respond to the texts and emails from your practice. Offer a form for patients to complete, asking how they prefer to be contacted – Text, Email, Phone or Mail – and then confirm their email and cell phone number. Also instruct them on how to respond and the importance of responding:
Just reply with the letter “C” to indicate that you have received the text and are confirming the appointment.
Keep in mind that this confirmation text should be received 2 WORKING days prior to their appointment. As a side note, consider the option to send a “friendly reminder” two hours in advance for those who get bogged down in work and forget what time it is.
“Please open the email that you will receive from our office and click on the “Confirm” button (or whatever your software program provides) to let us know that you have received our email and have responded.”
“How many times are you going to contact me?” Have you heard this from your patients? Maybe they are correct! Most programs are implemented with a pre-set method of contacting the patients and how often. Think back on how you used to contact your patients. A written notification was sent 2-4 weeks in advance and then you made a call 1-2 days in advance. Sometimes you had to call again if you were not able to reach the patient. I would suggest you follow a schedule that is similar, such as follows:
1. Notification of the appointment when it is made in the office.
If you have not received a text or email confirmation the day prior to their appointment, you will now need to place a call manually to check on them. “Mrs. Jones, this is Nancy at Smiles for You Dental. We are looking forward to seeing you tomorrow for your professional cleaning and exam at 10:00 am. See you then!”
The patient calls back and says they have received your text and email. Do you not “trust” them to keep their appointment? Again, educate your patient. “Mrs. Jones, I am so sorry. Apparently we failed to inform you of our new automated confirmation program that makes it easier for you opposed to being annoying. Did you receive our text? To make it easy for you, you only need to reply with a “C” and hit send. Did you receive our email as well? Next time, please take a moment to open the email and click on the ‘confirm’ button. Either of these steps informs us that you have received our message.”
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